Everything about Dark Tourism | Concept, Types, Examples

What is dark tourism?

Dark Tourism, in simpler terms, means ‘atmospheric tourism,’ where people can see the beauty in the sadness of a place. It is also known as grief tourism and black tourism. This form of travel goes beyond simply visiting the site of a natural disaster. It gives a chance of introspection for people on how the site contributes to modern society today. For instance, you can see a place like Chernobyl in the darkness that creates sadness because of destruction and death. It’s one of the famous examples of becoming familiar with dark tourism sites. It is also one of the top destinations tourists flocked. Other dark tourist sites include war places, ghost towns, memorial sites, active war zone, haunted houses, sites of nuclear attack, sites of atomic bomb, places devastated by natural disasters and any other place which has a dark history and is associated with death. 
Unravel Dark Tourism

Who are Dark Tourists? 

The term “dark tourist” refers to a person interested in visiting dark tourism sites and knowing about the dark past and a brighter future, where everything happened. This genre is getting increasingly popular among tourists from all over the world and might act as a factor influencing tourism. There is also an increase in searches for the term dark tourism and a few dedicated tourism management agencies, tour guides also exist. Guided tours help you to understand the very recent history, long traditions, exclusion zones etc.

Dark tourism destinations extend globally over 60 years, including places like Bogot, Colombia, Cusco, Peru, Bolivia, Togo, Chernobyl, Romania, Florence, Moscow, Camillo, and many more. All these sites focus on the strong links between history, disasters that they have incurred, have dark histories and are associated with death. A grief tourism destination for a dark tourist can advance and shape their travel experience when visiting a site. Therefore, a person’s identity comes into play when they visit these places. Dark tourism is often confused and considered similar to disaster tourism. Disaster tourism is the practice of visiting locations at which an environmental disaster, either natural or man-made, has occurred. The dark outcome makes it relevant when talking about dark tourism and discussing dark tourist attractions.

An essential quality of dark tourists is the desire to know tragic history and understand deeply twisted history. They have the perspective that the dark destination is a reflection of the past that needs more attention. That’s why they are attracted to these grief places. They have a natural attraction to sites or events related to disasters, war, or other natural calamities. More information is available in the video below if you prefer watching to reading!

Related Article: 6 Reasons Why People Pursue Dark Tourism

Types of Dark Tourism

Many objectives can drive the dark tourist’s motivation to visit any dark sites. Various types of tourism can be linked to dark places that are listed below. 

Holocaust Tourism

History is vast, which accounts for many intriguing stories. One such interesting and devastating time is World War II that is still remembered and studied. It holds a lot of death and destruction. Dark tourism mainly started in Nazi-ruled Germany. The dark sites of that period showcase the memorials, nature, politics, and the grief of children and citizens. 

The horrific stories prompted travelers from all across the globe to visit memorial parks and memorial museums, like Auschwitz, other Nazi concentration camps, or the Holocaust Memorial site. They highlight the remembrance of young and old Jews who lost their lives because of the execution by the government. The place also establishes a contrast between the past and the modern-day. The memorial site attracts a huge mass of events, and the photography becomes souvenirs for people. Movies such as pearl harbor also highlights some examples.

Two places in Poland that are worth mentioning in the context of Holocaust tourism are Warsaw and Oswiecim. Also, these places have served as a location for many big films to recreate authentic events of suffering. Warsaw is the capital city of Poland and one of the major dark tourism destinations. The people suffered the worst living conditions during the Nazi-led government, deportations during the Holocaust, infrastructure loss of almost all the old buildings, and inhuman treatment. 

Grave Tourism

Many people are drawn to visit cemeteries that represent a sad historical time frame. Some people might like to visit because it is a final resting place of a famous person. The burial sites give away interesting storylines that draw people towards them. These places tend to bridge the void between the present and the past, the living and the dead. Like Père Lachaise in Paris receives almost 3.5 million visitors per year. Other famous examples include Burma, Vandayasana, Weave, Cherub in Cambodia, and Garden Cemeteries of the Venerable Buddha. 

Heritage tourism:

Heritage tourism is not limited to travel, but it also gives an exposure to access and preserve the intangible cultural heritage. Any type of monument or heritage site that reminds people of a tragedy also gives knowledge about the context of events. The common ground of history combines heritage and dark tourism together. People travel there to discover the treasures of tragedy, war zones in the historic sites. For example, Auschwitz (Death Camp), or Vimy Ridge (war memorial) people get to know the history of a world war period and heritage through travel. Sedlec ossuary in the Czech Republic also can be viewed as an example. These areas are known to have long tradition and places historically important.

Heritage tourism boosts the local economy and enhances tourism development. All the hot spots of cultural heritage can become authentic potential destinations in nature. It also helps the tourist acquire knowledge about important cultural and historical places. It also gives a more profound sense of what can be preserved.

Communism Tourism

Even in the 21st era, a portion of the world is still under the control of communists. But it draws as an attraction for people to visit those areas and interact with the people, like North Korea. Also, it is impossible to know the natural history of communism in a country without seeing that place. 

Another example is Red Tourism, a subset of “tourism in the People’s Republic of China,” in which Chinese people visit locations that give a glimpse of Chinese Communism. It’s widely promoted to establish them as a cultural foundation for future generations. It is visited by many other people from Korean Peninsula and Chinese from eastern Europe. 

Battlefield Tourism:

The visiting of battlefields and war ruins, a dark tourism destination, is not new. There are World War One sites at the Somme, Verdun, or Ypres. Also, a recent example, the areas in the Falklands of the 1982 war are visited. There are also historical re-enactments in period costumes to give a real experience to the people. Mass graves and war zones are also popular examples of battlefield tourism.

Other Types

Other types and form of dark tourism include famous cemeteries, robben island, site of Vietnam war, site of cold war, bombing sites, dark fun factories and even London dungeon, morbid tourism, memorial park, nuclear tourism, slum tourism, macabre tourism etc. Tourists like to explore the darker side of such places and events.

Also Read: 5 Factors Influencing Tourist Destination and Tourism

Famous Dark Tourism Destinations:

Kigali Genocide Memorial, Africa:

The dark tourism sector is famous in Southeast Asia. Because of its fusion of rich heritage and tragedy. One such example was the Rwanda genocide in 1994. For about 100 days, members of the Tutsi minority and Hutu ethnic group were slaughtered by armed militias. It is estimated around 500,000 to 600,000 people were brutally killed. After these vulnerable stories came to light, people developed an attraction to the victims, which later generated tourism.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial has the remains of over 250,000 people. There is a visitor center for students and tourist who wants to gain more information about the events leading up to the genocide 1994. It is the principal entry point for foreign visitors and offers a few more sites that are worth exploring. Till now, this incident is a sensitive issue in Rwanda, and it is illegal to talk about ethnicity over there.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Poland:

People who were intrigued by the events of the World war will be familiar with the Auschwitz concentration camp. The German higher authorities established it in 1940 in the suburbs of Oświęcim. By 1942 it became one of the largest networks of Nazi death camps. The prisoners were pushed into forced labor, inhumane medical experiments, and mass killings. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is a memorial and museum in the memory of the people killed in the camps. It is one of the major attractions of Holocaust Tourism. Also, Auschwitz is called the “epitome of all dark tourism.” 

Garden of the Fugitives, Italy:

Pompeii is a world-famous heritage site and attracts Italy’s tourist attention. Additionally, it is one of the most important archaeological sites on Earth for its Roman remains. The ancient town is famous for volcanic ash caused by the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 AD. Even after so many years, it is still well-preserved roman town in history. It was rediscovered in the 18th century with the excavation process going on since the 19th century. One-third of the site is still under the ash.

Many mosaics, cultural relics, and remains of human bodies have been found. The archaeologists poured liquid chalk into the hollow cavities left by the decaying bodies to showcase the look of petrified bodies. Some of the plaster casts show a facial expression of calm and falling asleep.

Chernobyl and Pripyat, Ukraine:

In 1986, Chernobyl witnessed the worst nuclear disaster. It resulted from a series of mistakes at the power plant that caused explosions releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere. The winds amplified the destruction by carrying the toxic air over Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, contaminating millions of acres of land that had to be permanently evacuated. Pripyat is also known as the ghost town where tourists worldwide flock to see the amusement park, a moss-covered Ferris wheel, and other examples that give evidence of how lively the town was before the unfortunate incident.

People visiting there get a natural feeling of erosion and disruption that could be seen in the atmosphere of a destination. Chernobyl has not yet reached the final stage of its development and introduction.  However, it is still gaining a  lot of attention from dark tourists worldwide, especially after the famous web series on this tragic event. 

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia

The Cambodian genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot is considered one of the worst crimes against humanity. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum recalls the genocide and the torture of the victims in prison. It is located in Phnom Penh. The site is a former secondary school used as Security Prison 21 from 1975 to 1979. Around 14,000 to 20,000 victims were captured in prison and tortured. Almost all of them were ended up in the killing fields of Choeung Ek.

Be more educated on Dark Tourism, if it fascinates you

If you think you cannot wait to visit Chernobyl, hike in an authentic mountain in South Africa, visit Mummified Corpse and Museum in Phnom Penh or even attend a Christmas party haunted forest in North Korea. In that case, you are a dark tourist! And, it’s fine to embrace it. Heritage studies also dedicate some part of the syllabus to this field now due to increased academic attention.

Unravel Dark Tourism (2)

Dark Tourism as a field of study:

Dark tourism is a self-professed destination industry and has been defined by the principles of importance, prestige, and high-quality tourism. Tourism research aims to understand society’s problems. It is an application to research the world’s problems from the mistakes done in the past, such as war and terrorism. There are over a million people who are dark tourists which is an evidence that dark tourism is gaining interest.

Dark tourism is known as ‘thanatourism’ in academic literature. It is a broader sense to understand the tourist thinking, history, and re-learning of the events that led to the destruction and later attraction for people. It also understands the effect of the resources in the economy and the upcoming environment. Therefore, dark tourism research is related to the development of the tourism destination. 

Many types of research are going for Tourism development in the context of dark tourism. The Institute for Dark Tourism Research (iDTR) is a world-leading academic center for dark tourism scholarship, research, and teaching. 

Travel Blogs on Dark Tourism:

There are many blogs on Dark Tourism to increase the knowledge about captivating stories of these destinations. They also give an insight on how to behave and follow the protocols on these types of destinations. it is also depicted in museums, historical and spiritual sites, theatres, films, which can give a lot of information. 

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